1 24 If- If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired of waiting, Or being lied about, don t deal in lies, Or being hated, don t give way to hating, And yet don t look too good, nor talk to wise: If you can dream and not make dreams your master, If you can think and not make thoughts your aim, If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop, and build em up with worn-out tools; If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, To serve your turn long after you have gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will, which says to them: Hold on! If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that s in it, And which is more you ll be a man, my son! Rudyard Kipling
2 If- 25 In 1995, The Bookworm, a BBC programme, ran a poll to find the nation s favourite poem. 1 The only problem was that those who took part infuriatingly voted, not for one of the First World War pacifist poems, but and by an enormous majority for the splendidly inspiring and uplifting If- by Rudyard Kipling, a man who stood for pretty much everything the modern BBC detests. By daring to vote for If-, the British people prompted a storm of furious editorials in the media, with Kipling being widely dismissed as a racist and a fascist the two terms seemingly interchangeable and others snorting that the poem was jingoistic nonsense. Phillip Howard, writing in The Times, of all papers, thundered that it was stiff-upper-lipped and loose-jawed patriotism. Needless to say, the left-leaning media s fury had nothing to do with the quality of the poem and everything to do with Kipling having been the unofficial Poet Laureate of Empire, something we are all meant to be terribly ashamed of these days. Much to the indignation of the unpatriotic left, Kipling s masterpiece blatantly approves of dreadful, old-fashioned notions such as courage, self-reliance and teethgritted determination. To make matters worse, a few of the better-read critics were aware that the inspiration for the poem was Kipling s close friend, Dr Leander Starr Jameson, one of the founding fathers of Rhodesia and a man variously described as an imperialist, rogue, adventurer, rapscallion, explorer and rascal. In a book to accompany the series, the embarrassment felt by the BBC toward the winning poem is amusingly obvious. A forward was written by the usually rather entertaining Griff Rhys Jones, but he does not trouble himself to give any great background to the poem, and the passé Dr Jameson does not even get a mention. Instead, Rhys Jones falls over himself to reassure readers that if you can t keep your head with If-, there are another ninety-nine poems to enjoy, before declaring that, despite If- winning the vote, the overall mood of the poll is hardly one of warmongering tub thumpery. Even more bizarre, and in a truly Stalinesque piece of democracy, the BBC simply chose to ignore the fact that If- had polled over twice as many votes as the runnerup and arbitrarily relegated Kipling s piece to second place. In a mother knows best fashion, the suitably right-on Do not stand at my grave and weep which, though without doubt a very moving poem, seemingly polled no votes whatsoever in the 1 If- won again in a similar poll conducted by Classic FM in 2009.
3 26 The If Man competition was whisked in from obscurity, declared to be the real winner, and printed in what Rhys Jones shamelessly declared to be prime, first past the post, pole position right at the front of the book. The right-on luvvies of the BBC, like all members of the Liberal intelligentsia, seem to approve of democracy only insofar as people vote for what they are meant to. Even those few in the media who dared to write in defence of the public s choice tiptoed round the subject, desperately reminding one another not to mention the Empire. Writing in The Independent, even the estimable Geoffrey Wheatcroft, while conceding that Kipling was a racist arguably, argued that as the poem itself has been widely translated including, incidentally, into Italian by Antonio Gramsci, leader of the Italian Communist Party back in the 1930s it could not therefore be considered jingoistic God forbid. Wheatcroft s final concession to the forces of political correctness was to declare, without giving his readers any explanation for his somewhat bold statement, that the man who inspired Kipling to write the poem in the first place Dr Jameson was an unworthy inspiration for a great poem. Now Dr Jameson, as we shall shortly see, and just like every other human being, was certainly not without his faults. The good Doctor led a far from blameless existence, but I would suggest that Rudyard Kipling knew him a good deal better than did Mr Wheatcroft, and yet Kipling, for one, thought him to be a perfectly worthy inspiration for his greatest work. Whatever else Jameson was, he was indisputably a patriot to his backbone, fiercely loyal and blessed with remarkable courage, resilience and determination. Aside from the impossibly über-alpha males of a Wilbur Smith novel, few men can have led such an adventurous, eventful and varied life as did Jameson. Perhaps it is understandable that Jameson should appear unappealing in modern times, when our heroes are invariably Premiership football players; though widespread adoration for a bunch of overpaid, Alice-band-wearing play-actors who chase a ball about for a couple of hours on a Saturday, then generally spend the rest of the week crashing Porches, gang-raping air hostesses and occasionally beating up their girlfriends, is perhaps as damning an indictment of modern British society as is possible to make. In the aftermath of the Jameson Raid fiasco, and though armed with knowledge that could have brought down the British government, Jameson did not run to the
4 If- 27 Victorian version of Max Clifford and sell his story to the gutter press. Instead, he stoically carried the can, serving time in prison as thanks for acting with loyalty, patriotism and honour. Throughout his life, where others lost their nerve, dithered and hesitated, Jameson acted. This decisiveness is, of course, a complete anathema to modern minds, where focus groups, public inquires and committees stifle, complicate and delay every decision-making process and our so-called leaders are primarily concerned with cheating on their expenses and covering their backsides at all times. I spent a considerable amount of time in Cape Town during my research and when I told one book dealer that I was writing a biography of Jameson, he appeared shocked. After composing himself, he shook his head sagely, then knowingly informed me that Jameson was the sort of man who would have called a kaffir a kaffir. I did my best to appear suitably horrified, then replied: Ah, much like everyone else who lived at that time, then? And even if he did use words which today are deemed unacceptable, is that a reason to airbrush him from history? Sir Guy Gibson VC, hero of the Dam Buster raid, famously had a black Labrador called Nigger ; does this make him less worthy of study? For a generation, the Western world has sat wringing their hands, as they watch Mr Mugabe systematically destroy the country which Dr Jameson helped build. Of course, in these enlightened times, swift, decisive action of the kind Jameson favoured is not politically correct, and is derided as gunboat diplomacy and neo-colonialism. It is more fashionable, even though completely useless, to debate a problem year after year, buying votes from other unsavoury dictators at the UN and passing a meaningless resolution from time to time. There can be no argument that the Doctor met more than his fair share of triumph and disaster, or that, more than once, he risked everything on a turn of pitch and toss. Any one who takes the time to read just how much drama he squeezed into his sixtyfour years of life will agree that he more than filled the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds worth of distance run. Those poor, guilt-ridden souls who have decided to be frightfully ashamed of our colonial history, and thus to blindly disapprove of everything to do with it are, alas, beyond rational debate. But to other, somewhat more opened-minded readers, this book will hopefully prove that Kipling s magnificent If- is a suitable tribute to the equally remarkable Jameson, a fellow who really was a man, my son.
5 CHAPTER ONE You ll be a man, my son Your fathers worked hard, fought hard and died hard to make this empire for you. Don t let them look down from heaven, and see you loafing about with your hands in your pockets doing nothing to keep it up. General Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys Any boy born in early 21 st century Britain, and given a name like Horatio, Reginald, Horace or Cecil, can be fairly sure that his schooldays will be, at best, characterbuilding. Rather like Johnny Cash s unfortunate boy named Sue, our poor, hypothetical fellow will have to learn to look after himself pretty quickly, or endure a childhood spent having his head shoved down the toilet and being mercilessly teased. Who knows, perhaps one day a psychologist will write a paper proving a link between the massive expansion of the British Empire in Victorian times and their penchant for inflicting their sons with character-building names. Despite our tendency to view our forefathers as being more nobly innocent than us, it is highly unlikely that children were any kinder to one another in those times than they are now. It is equally tempting, of course, to assume that such names were normal back then, but this does not seem to have been the case for my great-grandfather who, inexplicably cursed with the name Butterick, quickly found that schoolboys and, in later life, soldiers excel at rhyming nicknames. Leander Starr Jameson was born on the 9 th of February, 1853, at 5 North Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, 1 the eleventh child of Robert William and Christian Jameson. That Mrs Jameson had already produced nine sons and one daughter might explain why they felt forced to come up with a more unconventional name for boy number 1 Dr Jameson, p. 44.
6 Chapter one 29 ten; indeed, they had already been scraping the bottom of the barrel by naming two of his brothers Julius and Middleton. They had no more children after number eleven, though one is left wondering what they would have called any additional offspring. It would seem that the inspiration behind the eleventh child s name was a Mr Leander Starr, an American gentleman and, depending upon the source one reads, either a long-time business associate of the proud father s, or a man who had saved him from drowning when the ice covering a lake gave way beneath him. Which version is true will probably never be known; the latter would certainly seem a more defensible reason for saddling one s son with such an unsual name. 2 It is my experience that, without exception, the obligatory childhood chapter of any biography is by far the most tedious, so we will keep this short. No right-minded reader is interested in some outrageously tenuous attempt by an author to link, for example, the subject s childhood fondness for cream cakes to his later decision to invade Switzerland. I shall therefore spare you such banalities and impart only the barest details of what was, to be fair, a standard enough, middle-class Victorian upbringing. Jameson s family originated from the Shetland Isles 3 and this sea-faring heritage is reflected in the family crest which featured a sailing ship. The crest also contained the family motto, Sine Metu ( Without Fear ) which seems somewhat appropriate. Leander Starr s great-grandfather, Thomas Jamieson, moved to the mainland during the Napoleonic Wars to seek his fortune in the rather disgusting-sounding industry of whale-oil and soap boiling. 4 The name Jamieson is still very common in Shetland, but it would seem that the i was dropped somewhere along the way. Perhaps excited by the thought of the distant and exotic Shetland Isles, and imagining that fearsome and rapacious Vikings still roamed thereabouts, several accounts written in the early 20 th century attempt to link Jameson s later decisiveness, nomadic spirit and impetuosity to the Norse blood which coursed through his veins, but this seems to be stretching the point. Far from a bloodthirsty Viking, Jameson s father was a journalist, poet 5 2 Ibid. 3 Sons and Daughters of Shetland, p The Life of Jameson, Vol. I, p His most famous work, written in 1848, was flamboyantly titled Nimrod a dramatic poem in five acts.
7 30 The If Man and, perhaps surprisingly, an ardent liberal. The family moved several times during Jameson s childhood, the first eight years of which were spent in Scotland, before his father moved them to London via Suffolk. Young Leander was well liked by his brothers, who affectionately referred to him as Lanner, throughout his childhood and in the letters they wrote him as adults. Like many youngest sons, this attention seems to have done his self-confidence no harm at all, and he appears to have been a precocious young fellow. As a six-year-old, upon being given a tot of sherry, he downed it and, wiping his mouth, declared to his approving audience: Now I feel as if I could go and do everything. 6 Although always fairly small for his age, Jameson grew to be something of an athlete, competing in and often winning long-distance races against his older brothers, as well as excelling at games at school. Unlike many Victorians, however, he was in no way obsessive about sport and, indeed, it is said that he never played another game after leaving school. His father s wandering ways meant that Jameson moved between several schools before settling at Godolphin School in Hammersmith at the age of twelve. 7 Finally gaining a modicum of stability a state of affairs which would prove rare in the remainder of his life he remained at Godolphin until just before his nineteenth birthday. Despite his plethora of siblings, none of the others attended Godolphin; some went to sea, while two of his brothers and his only sister were sent to school in Germany. Godolphin had something of a reputation for the classics, but alas closed in 1900 and so any detailed records of Jameson s schooling are almost certainly lost to us, which is a great shame as one can only imagine that his report cards would have made fascinating reading. Whatever mischief he might have got up to, Jameson by now a slim, erect, compact fellow of five foot eight did well enough at school to secure a place at London s University College Hospital in 1870, where he studied medicine. His studies were sponsored by his elder brother, Tom, who lent him 100 to pay his fees. Jameson s appreciation is obvious in the letters he regularly sent Tom throughout his studies. In one, he describes his delight at passing the entrance exam, and mentions favouring natural history over the grind of German and Divinity, hinting at the man of action 6 Jameson s Raid, p The Life of Jameson, Vol. I, p. 7.
8 Chapter one 31 that he would become. 8 However, even the supremely confident Jameson must have wondered if he had chosen the right career path when, upon witnessing his first operation, he promptly fainted, lying for hours in something of a stupor and unable to eat or speak. Undeterred by this inauspicious beginning, young Jameson applied himself to his studies with the steely determination which he was to exhibit throughout much of his life. His efforts won him the gold medal of medical jurisprudence, as well as silver medals in anatomy, surgery, pathology and medicine. His full list of qualifications upon graduation was something of a mouthful: MB and BS, London University, MRCS, England, LSA, London. 9 After completing his studies, Jameson took a brief sojourn in the United States to cure an opium eater of his habit. He described this man to Tom as really not at all a bad fellow and, forthright as ever, casually added that he planned to cut him off [from opium] entirely, and treat him like a lunatic for a week or two. 10 Having succeeded, Jameson returned to London and started work at University Hospital as one of three resident surgeons. His aptitude swiftly drew attention, and it wasn t long before he was appointed one of the resident physicians. By far the youngest of the house surgeons, the amiable, capable and quick-witted Jameson quickly established himself as a favourite of both his patients and his peers. The esteem with which he was regarded by this latter group was evidenced by his election as resident medical officer at the unprecedented age of twenty-three. 11 Despite, or perhaps because of, his achievements, by 1878 Jameson had worked himself into a state of nervous exhaustion. This was, perhaps, inevitable, given his tendency to immerse himself utterly in every task. 12 Quite why he gave up a highly promising career in London to head off to the Cape Colony is not easily explained. Some writers but not his two previous biographers claim that Jameson moved to the allegedly therapeutic climate of South Africa as a result of ill health, rather like Cecil Rhodes. Ill health is a phrase which is disconcertingly vague, but which 8 Ibid, p Dr Jameson, p The Life of Jameson, Vol. I, p Ibid, p Dr Jameson, p. 54.
9 32 The If Man possibly refers to his near breakdown brought on by overwork, or is perhaps simply made up. Quite how a different climate would help exhaustion is not explained, and while he was described by his contemporaries as looking like a Scottish terrier ready to pounce and, more bizarrely, as having the nostrils of a race horse, 13 no one ever mentions Jameson as being a sickly chap. Indeed, though the Doctor himself claimed he suffered from a slightly mouldy lobe of the lungs, Hugh Marshall Hole declared that he was blessed with a splendid constitution. 14 Given the amazing series of uninterrupted physical exertions, wars and explorations which Dr Jameson was to partake in over the next twenty years, this makes a bit more sense; it is hard to believe that he was in any way weak or infirm. One is more inclined to believe that, perhaps having been given a wake-up call by reaching a state of near collapse due to his workaholic ways, he decided on a complete change of scene and was therefore driven mainly by a desire for a change of pace and a natural lust for excitement. Rhodes himself would often dismiss suggestions that he left England on account of his health, saying it was actually because he could no longer stand the cold mutton. 15 It is therefore not unreasonable to suggest that Jameson, too, was drawn by the desire to live a larger life. The average young Briton of today can look forward to little more than passing the best years of his life in the soul-destroying existence as a supervisor at McDonalds or, if he is really lucky, a trainee manager at TieRack. He will spend his working day counting down the minutes until he can sit in traffic for an hour or two, then get home to a tiny, massively expensive flat and eat a microwavable ready meal in front the latest mind-numbing reality TV phenomenon. Life was, for better or worse, somewhat different and certainly a good deal more exciting back in the days of Pax Britannica. Assuming one was lucky enough to be born of British stock, the mid- Victorian era was a truly splendid time to be a young man: adventure and opportunity beckoned across the globe. The Nanny State had yet to be invented and the insidious creeping tide of political correctness was mercifully unheard of. By 1878, only Jameson s sister, Kate, had settled into married life in Great Britain. His surviving brothers two, Edward and Ross, had died while infants, while John 13 Jameson s Raid, p Old Rhodesian Days, p Cecil Rhodes, p. 1.
10 Chapter one 33 had drowned at sea at the age of eighteen were scattered across the world. Tom had served in the Crimea and was still a Royal Navy surgeon; Bob had gone to sea aged eleven, got shipwrecked on the Australian coast and spent years wandering the bush; Middleton, or Midge, the Bohemian one, was drifting about the art world in Paris; and Julius and Sam were already in South Africa. Indeed, Julius had sent home a diamond which had greatly impressed Jameson, who described it in a letter to his brother Tom as being much larger than we expected, and appears to be nearly quite fine; but it is not cut, so, as he advises, I am going to keep it in its present condition till I can afford to make a swell affair of it. 16 Arriving hot on the heels of Julius s Diamond, the catalyst for Jameson s move to South Africa was a letter sent to the authorities of University College by Dr Prince of Kimberley in the Cape Colony, stating his desire to find a partner to join his busy practice. Although the hospital was reluctant to lose his skills, Jameson seized the opportunity and accepted the position. He departed England aboard the Drummond Castle, fully intending to return in a few years once he had saved enough money to set himself up in private practice. 17 This was not quite how things turned out. 16 The Life of Jameson, Vol. I, p Dr Jameson, p. 54.